Monday, March 01, 2004

on passion

And I saw The Passion of the Christ. I loved it. I think Mel Gibson did a great job retelling the story. I loved the flashbacks. The incessant whipping while Jesus was carrying his cross was a bit "unrealistic" but other than that, it was great. I could pick up themes of catholic theology but nothing so overt that the average church goer would have picked up. I have never been to a movie, especially one where I knew the whole story and ending before I entered the movie theater, which effected me so much physically.

There was one scene that I wanted to end more than any other movie scene I have ever experience. Each blow received by Christ was mimicked in my own body with jolts and tightening of muscles. It wasn't the movie that moved me emotionally, however, it was my own relationship with Christ which brought tears to my eyes. From the first second of the movie, I felt like I knew the main character. We had been friends for years. We had talked and laughed and cried together. The movie simply reminded me of his last 12 hours before his resurrection. What I know of Jesus personally is only post-resurrection. Everything else about his life I have had to read about from four different accounts. This movie helped me see what my imagination couldn't grasp in the reading. It helped me to feel what had grown numb in my own heart.

It served the role of a wedding video. Only much more graphic, violent and powerful. But as a marriage goes on, two people grow closer together. Though they get more "comfortable" with each other and actually know each other better over the years, some of the "passion" can be forgotten. Some of the honeymoon feelings and wedding butterflies can seem a lifetime away. But a wedding video has a way of reminding the couple of that "passion." Though they have stories in their mind and pictures in the albums, a video has a unique way of bringing the couple back to the beginning like no other form of media.

Likewise, this movie was made for believers. I don't really think it can be understood, appreciated, or truly felt by someone who doesn't know, not only the stories, but also the intimacy of Christ. It was, in a sense, the wedding video for the bride of Christ. It reminded me, and the rest of the believers who have seen it, of the lengths our Savior went through to show his love for us. And by seeing, quite possibly for the first time, his passion for us, our own passion for him is renewed.

Some were hyping up this movie as "life changing." Its not. Jesus' relationship with me is life changing. I might call the movie "scripture changing," because I am sure my mental picture of scripture has been changed forever. Will I ever read the gospels the same again? Probably not. But the reality of Christ in my life is not just dependent on the "past" action of God in the world, but on His "present" action in my own life.

I was moved physically because of the masterful work of Mel Gibson, but I was moved emotionally because of the real, live relationship I have with Jesus himself. It is his present outpouring of grace in my life that made me tear up in the Mary Magdalene flashback. It is his present voice in my prayer life that made me tear up when he said, "No servant is greater than his Master." It is his present willingness to love me today that caused me to shake my head in wonder at his words on the cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

I imagine that it is good to watch wedding videos as an older couple. I am sure it is a moving and healthy reminder of the passion they once shared. But I am also sure that it is their present day relationship with each other that kindles the fire and sustains the marriage.

Father, thank you for your continual presence and action in my life today. Thank you that you are a God not just of salvation history, but also of the present and the future. Father, I pray that I will be moved not just by what you did for me, but also by what you are doing in me and what you will do with me.


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